[Milton-L] response to Richard Strier, et al, on Greenblatt

Matthew Jordan matthewjorda at gmail.com
Wed Sep 16 19:26:30 EDT 2015


I - and as far as I'm aware, my co-students - certainly read PL on our own,
in the 80s. I was advised to read it aloud; the first go took much of two
days. That's not to say that I read it with Empsonian rigour or
inventiveness...

Then again, I may have had a head start: my Dad did once come home from
work to find me and a couple of friends from Nursery School gazing wrapt at
my Mum, in Oxford cap and gown, distracting herself from the tedium of
child-minding by teaching us a class on Milton - or at least, reading aloud
from him....

Best, Matt

On 16 September 2015 at 22:21, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>
wrote:

> Thanks for the comment and history, but I am skeptical about one claim.  I
> do not believe that your students in the '80's actually could read PL on
> their own, with no help except historical and critical contextualization.
> Maybe they were better at faking it, but the poem is not easy, on first
> acquaintance, for ANYONE to read.  So again -- though I may indeed be
> mistaken -- think that the contrast is being overdrawn.
>
> RS
>
> ________________________________________
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Crystal L Bartolovich [
> clbartol at syr.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 12:20 PM
> To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
> Subject: [Milton-L] response to Richard Strier, et al, on Greenblatt
>
> Totally agree with Richard that Greenblatt appears to give up too easily
> in that piece.
>
> But, on the other hand, I must admit that I have had to shift the teaching
> of my upper division Milton class considerably over the years. When I
> first started teaching as a grad student in the 1980s, I could presume
> that most students could get Shakespeare AND Milton on their own and so I
> spent class time only on broader critical and historical issues.  I
> definitely cannot make that assumption with Milton now or an alarming
> number of students would fail.
>
> Even honors students truly cannot read Milton at first AT ALL.  So, at the
> beginning of the term, I have to have the students read a few lines out
> loud and venture to say what they mean‹ every student, in turn, in every
> class.  THIS IS REALLY REALLY HARD for my students (who are not U Chicago
> undergrads, admittedly) to do, but between this rigorous in-class work,
> and ample paraphrasing homework, most of them DO get it, and we can spend
> time on more sophisticated questions of interpretation.
>
> But some of them require very considerable coaching during office hours
> until the very end, and a few fail.  So I don¹t think that the diagnosis
> of less verbal facility is false, but rather that there are antidotes
> other than throwing in the towel and letting them make films or
> whatever‹and that those other remedies are more valuable.
>
> By far I get the most notes of appreciation from Milton students, saying
> how proud they are that they stuck the course out and how much they
> learned.
>
>
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